Sunday, March 24, 2013

Racist Black Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates’ New York Times’ Racial Profiling Hoax: He Conjures Up a Phantom White to Commit Phantom “Violence” Against Black Actor Forest Whitaker, in Addition to the Millions of Other Phantom Whites, and the “Invisible Violence” with Which They Haunt Blacks

Posted, with a running commentary, by Nicholas Stix

In February, black actor-director Forest Whitaker was reportedly stopped and frisked in the Milano Market, an overpriced deli near Columbia University. Racist black propagandist Ta-Nehisi Coates saw in the incident an opportunity to create a hate crime hoax.

He got the New York Times to bite, which couldn’t have been hard. Coates presented the incident as a case of a white worker “assaulting” an innocent black man, just because the latter was black, and as a microcosm of what black folks must endure in racist America.

Coates didn’t actually say the worker was white, thus giving him plausible deniability, but if he had told the truth, his entire rant would have collapsed.

And in fact, the worker was not white. A Manhattan-based friend of my colleague Steve Sailer contacted him to inform him that the Market did not employ any whites.

Coates also neglected to mention that blacks practically have a monopoly on shoplifting in New York City.

He didn’t inquire as to the Market’s problems with shoplifting. He also didn’t mention to his readers that before he wrote his column, the owner had fired the poor sap who had stopped and frisked Whitaker, in seeking to protect the man who would later fire him.

The facts didn’t serve Coates’ morality play.

Note that as racist as Coates is, he’s the “good cop” of the family.

“The other day I walked past this particular deli. I believe its owners to be good people. I felt ashamed at withholding business for something far beyond the merchant’s reach. I mentioned this to my wife. My wife is not like me. When she was 6, a little white boy called her cousin a nigger, and it has been war ever since. ‘What if they did that to your son?’ she asked.”

So, his wife is racist to the bone. She didn’t even suffer a racist taunt as a child; a relative of hers did. And yet, that sufficed for her to wage an eternal race war on whites. Given that virtually every white in America knows another white who has suffered at least a racist taunt from a black, and most of them know a white who has suffered racist black violence, according to Mrs. Coates’ criterion, virtually all whites are justified in waging race war on blacks.

And if she is waging war on whites, why does she live on the overwhelmingly white Yupper West Side? She doesn’t care for blacks, either. I wonder why that is.

It’s not whites that are the problem.

After Coates’ rant below, I have reprinted a thoroughly unrepresentative batch of comments by New York Times readers. At the Times’ site, about 90 percent of the permitted comments mindlessly supported The Great Ta-Nehisi. That’s not news. What is news is that the Times’ thread Nazis permitted, by my guestimate, at least 10 percent of the comments to be critical of Coates. (Keep in mind that the thread Nazis have put a certain, indeterminate group of people, including yours truly, on permablock. They also block non-permablocked commenters on a whim, so that one never knows just where true reader sentiment stands.)

It could have been much worse. At The Atlantic, where Coates is a blogger, he gets to be his own thread Nazi and, surprise, surprise, the comments are virtually 100 percent slavishly pro-Coates.
[Postscript, August 10, 2022: Not long after I posted this item, someone at the atlantic got me universally permablocked on its website. I wonder who that could have been?]

Though some other Atlantic writers permit me to comment, Coates has me on permablock.

I did once encounter a comment there critical of Coates, but it was so swathed in deference at the beginning, that I doubt he even noticed the critical part at the end.

* * *
The Good, Racist People
Op-Ed Guest Columnist
By Ta-Nehisi Coates
Published: March 6, 2013
New York Times

Last month the actor Forest Whitaker was stopped in a Manhattan delicatessen by an employee. Whitaker is one of the pre-eminent actors of his generation, with a diverse and celebrated catalog ranging from “The Great Debaters” to “The Crying Game” to “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai.”

[If Whitaker were really “one of the pre-eminent actors of his generation,” Coates wouldn’t have had to say so, let alone list three of his movies. If the subject had been Denzel Washington or Tom Hanks, the entire second sentence would have been superfluous.] By now it is likely that he has adjusted to random strangers who can’t get his turn as Idi Amin out of their heads. [More hyperbole. Perhaps on the Yupper West Side this is so, but most moviegoers have never seen the picture in question.] But the man who approached the Oscar winner at the deli last month was in no mood for autographs. The employee stopped Whitaker, accused him of shoplifting and then promptly frisked him. The act of self-deputization was futile. Whitaker had stolen nothing. On the contrary, he’d been robbed.

[Presumably, Coates is speaking of Whitaker’s dignity.]

The deli where Whitaker was harassed happens to be in my neighborhood.
Columbia University is up the street. Broadway, the main drag, is dotted with nice restaurants and classy bars that cater to beautiful people. I like my neighborhood. [But your wife hates it! It’s full of white people. Why does she let you live there? Maybe… she doesn’t like living around blacks, because they are so crime-ridden?] And I’ve patronized the deli with some regularity, often several times in a single day. I’ve sent my son in my stead. My wife would often trade small talk with whoever was working checkout. Last year when my beautiful niece visited, she loved the deli so much that I felt myself a sideshow. But it’s understandable. It’s a good deli. [So, he and his family had never seen any blacks “harassed” or “robbed” there.]

Since the Whitaker affair, I’ve read and listened to interviews with the owner of the establishment. [This is apparently what counts as investigative reporting to the Great Ta-Nehisi] He is apologetic to a fault and is sincerely mortified. He says that it was a “sincere mistake” made by a “decent man” who was “just doing his job.” I believe him. And yet for weeks now I have walked up Broadway, glancing through its windows with a mood somewhere between Marvin Gaye’s “Distant Lover” and Al Green’s “For the Good Times.”

[Talk about laying it on thick. And I’m not at all embarrassed to say that I’d never heard of either recording, though I’m familiar with the original Ray Price recording of “For the Good Times.” And I dare say that Coates’ references meant nothing to 95 percent of the people reading his rant.]

In modern America we believe racism to be the property of the uniquely villainous and morally deformed, the ideology of trolls, gorgons and orcs. [Who is “we,” Kimosabe?] We believe this even when we are actually being racist. In 1957, neighbors in Levittown, Pa., uniting under the flag of segregation, wrote: “As moral, religious and law-abiding citizens, we feel that we are unprejudiced and undiscriminating in our wish to keep our community a closed community.”

A half-century later little had changed. [Oh, my! He didn’t, did he? So, he’s playing two rhetorical games here. One is, “things are no better for blacks in 2013,” than they were over 50 years ago, while the other is that whites who believe in segregation are monsters. I’ve never seen him vilify the tens of millions of blacks in this country who believe in racial segregation. Coates doesn’t hate segregation, he just hates whites.] The comedian Michael Richards (Kramer on “Seinfeld”) once yelled at a [racist] black heckler from the stage: “He’s a nigger! He’s a nigger! He’s a nigger!” Confronted about this, Richards apologized and then said, “I’m not a racist,” and called the claim “insane.” [And if Richards had said, “I’m a racist,” he either would have starved to death on the street by now, or been murdered, and Coates would have applauded, either way. Besides, if blacks have freedom of speech, so do whites.]

The idea that racism lives in the heart of particularly evil individuals, as opposed to the heart of a democratic society, is reinforcing to anyone who might, from time to time, find their tongue sprinting ahead of their discretion. We can forgive Whitaker’s assailant. [What assailant?] Much harder to forgive is all that makes Whitaker stand out in the first place. New York is a city, like most in America, that bears the scars of redlining, blockbusting and urban renewal. The ghost of those policies haunts us in a wealth gap between blacks and whites that has actually gotten worse over the past 20 years.

[What a pathetic liar. First of all, New York City has been a Jim Snow town for at least 50 years. Every black here has for at least that long enjoyed obscene racial privilege. For another, Coates is just regurgitating his racial socialist allies’ pseudo-scholarship. And finally, if Coates were interested in facts, he’d know that at least 10 years ago, Newsday published a front page story, announcing that blacks in Queens had higher average incomes than whites.]

But much worse, it haunts black people with a kind of invisible violence that is given tell only when the victim happens to be an Oscar winner. [So, the non-white worker who searched Whitaker committed “violence” against him, and blacks are also “haunted” by “a kind of invisible violence,” also from phantom whites.] The promise of America is that those who play by the rules, who observe the norms of the “middle class,” will be treated as such. But this injunction is only half-enforced when it comes to black people, in large part because we were never meant to be part of the American story. Forest Whitaker fits that bill, and he was addressed as such. [I don’t know any blacks under the age of 70 “who play by the rules, who observe the norms of the ‘middle class.’” Coates is turning the reality, whereby blacks get racial privilege in everything upside down.]

I am trying to imagine a white president forced to show his papers at a national news conference, and coming up blank. [What is he talking about?] I am trying to a imagine a prominent white Harvard professor arrested for breaking into his own home, and coming up with nothing. [Henry Louis Gates did break into, with the help of a taxidriver, the Harvard-owned house Gates was living in. Coates apparently thinks that people have no right to call 911, if they see two black men breaking into a house. And yet, Gates wasn’t arrested for that. He was arrested for acting in a “tumultuous” manner towards the police that answered the call. Gates acted like a racist thug, and sought to incite people on the street to riot against the police.] I am trying to see Sean Penn or Nicolas Cage being frisked at an upscale deli, and I find myself laughing in the dark. [As numerous readers pointed out, a number of white movie stars have been arrested for shoplifting in recent years.] It is worth considering the messaging here. It says to black kids: “Don’t leave home. They don’t want you around.” It is messaging propagated by moral people.

[“Messaging.” As if anyone got to tell black kids anything, nowadays! They walk around with their pants on the ground (increasingly girls, too), they curse out teachers and police alike, they steal from delis in packs… If no black kid ever walked into a deli again, the deli owners would all come out ahead.

But I’m being unfair to black kids. Black grownups shoplift like crazy, too! A couple of months ago, a Moslem newstand manager near my neighborhood gave me what was for him typical example. A black male comes into the store, and asks the man what a certain brand of cigarettes cost. As the manager turned to check the cigarettes, he spied the black steal a chocolate bar. I assumed the thief was a teenager, but the manager enlightened me: He was past 40.]

The other day I walked past this particular deli. I believe its owners to be good people. I felt ashamed at withholding business for something far beyond the merchant’s reach. I mentioned this to my wife. My wife is not like me. When she was 6, a little white boy called her cousin a nigger, and it has been war ever since. “What if they did that to your son?” she asked.

And right then I knew that I was tired of good people, that I had had all the good people I could take.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor at The Atlantic, is a guest columnist. Nicholas D. Kristof is on book leave.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on March 7, 2013, on page A27 of the New York edition with the headline: The Good, Racist People.

o Josy Will
o Eau Claire
o Verified
NYT Pick
And now I shall cry myself to sleep, mother of a black young man that I am.
o March 7, 2013 at 12:16 a.m.
o Recommended 513
o [Josy Will was apparently not joking. Of course, she doesn’t want to live anywhere near urban blacks herself, so her tears are cheap.]

 Rima Regas
 Mission Viejo, CA
 Verified
I cry with you.
 March 7, 2013 at 12:29 a.m.
 Recommended85
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 thbleakl
 LWR Florida and SCS, Michigan
All the moreso sad when we have the arrogant Tea Party darling Scalia proclaiming during Supreme Court oral arguments that voting is an 'entitlement' for African Americans.
 March 7, 2013 at 11:00 a.m.
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 pwfoundation
 San Francisco
I will also cry myself to sleep tonight, mother of a black young man. thank you Josy. and i will cry with you.
 March 7, 2013 at 11:00 a.m.
 Recommended6
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o John S.
o Arizona
o Verified
Mr. Coates:

It would be nice to know if any black people worked at this "nice" delicatessen in positions other than dishwashers or janitors.
[Idiot! Delis don’t have “dishwashers” or “janitors”!]

Regarding the "goodness" of the delicatessen owner, I suspect the owner had a lot of input into the employee's training, and the owner's "ruefulness" could be the result of his racism coming out of the closet .

Remember you don't have give this delicatessen and its owner your business.
o March 7, 2013 at 5:27 a.m.
o Recommended48
o < jQuery1710049244491905987064="381">

o Scott
o Chicago
NYT Pick
I am starting to have misgivings about articles like these: All that is good in the world (that I have observed) comes from tolerance and a willingness to forgive. Nothing ever good stems from quests for perfection and purity.

And yet so often these discussions are about purity of mind, purity of thought. I want to be a good person, yet I do get a bit more suspicious of black people on the train (if I force myself into such introspection). Do I, and all others like me, need to purge such impure thoughts in order for society to progress? And is it better to deny such thoughts exist -- or instead work purposefully towards making sure I do not treat people unfairly?

I am not sure. All I know is that I will strive to be tolerant, forgiving, and open-minded.
o March 7, 2013 at 7:23 a.m.
o Recommended 921
o Jane
o San Diego
If I had a nickel for every time I've been told that some incident shows how bad blacks- and it's no different that what I, a white woman, have experienced.. I have been stopped by store personnel for suspicion of shoplifting when I wasn't. Why should I be outraged that it happened to Forest Whitaker? You are not asking me to treat his sensitivities equal to my own but superior. As far as the Michael Richard rant- it was not worse than the anti gay/women/Jewish/Asian bigotry spewed openly by prominent blacks with little outrage. It was no more offensive than what I hear coming out of the mouths of black males, not just to each other but to other groups too, openly and loudly in public all the time. The media covers incidents of anti-black hate speech as being an atrocity while similar incidents by blacks towards others- Asians, gays, Jews, and women- stay under the radar. I do not see the examples given in this article as proof blacks have it worse. In my city black mobs attack people left and right and no one calls it a hate crime even though those targetted are always white or Asian. None of these mobs have ever gotten more than a couple years even when they have killed someone. Never in my lifetime have white mob attacks by blacks not been called a hate crime. And the sentencing would elicit outrage if the races were reverse in these cases. The fact that black men have the same experiences that I do is not that tragic.
o March 7, 2013 at 7:27 a.m.
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 James Hadley
 Orleans, MA
I believe you are missing the point, Jane. The Whittaker incident is newsworthy because, with the easily recognizable name of the protagonist a point can be made. Sorry if you have been abused or harassed, but that is the subject for another, different column. Here, the story has the resonance of celebrity, and more especially because of its occurrence in a liberal neighborhood, in a liberal city, in a liberal state. (The well-known Tom's diner from Seinfeld is right up the street from the Deli in question, BTW.)
Let us admit, after reading this story, that there remains a set of societal biases against people of color among members of the dwindling white majority in the US, and perhaps the experiences of our first non-white president will be better understood. As well as the hopes of all those of differing races that helped elect him.
 March 7, 2013 at 8:37 a.m.
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o Fred Birchmore
o Boston
Well, we all know that no famous actor has ever shoplifted.

Did the camera coverage in the deli show that it was unreasonable for the employee to have thought maybe there was some shoplifting going on? Have there been any other incidents with that specific employee?

Does Mr. Coates have any reaction when a shoplifter is caught?

I accept Mr. Coates' human nature in his reaction to this situation, but if he boycotts the deli that could be argued to be less just than the employee's action. Mr. Coates knows that there is a poor argument for a boycott of the employer, but we can surmise that the employee probably actually believed that he had seen shoplifting (unless it is demonstrated that the specific employee had a substantial record of false accusations).

There is plenty of racism, injustice, and crimes in the world. We just have to do the best we can, in spite of our human limitations and inclinations toward bias. Try to judge the facts objectively. Try to let your own pain and upset pass by without eating into your soul. Be forgiving. Peace.
o March 7, 2013 at 7:27 a.m.
o Recommended 5
o < jQuery1710049244491905987064="495">

o Croatian
o Hvar, Croatia
From my distant point of view, the problem is not so clear-cut and simple. If crime is substantially more spread among blacks -- a statistic fact -- then their singling out for frisking could be justified as a rational behavior of law enforcers. On the other hand, such singling-out could not only prevent the crime, but as well prod it by inducing outcast's mentality. Historical and social roots of objective racial divisions and subjective racisms in USA are too deep and too complex to be wished away by politically correct speech and shedding of tears. The first real step on the way out is the realization that there is no easy way out. And that it will take centuries.
o March 7, 2013 at 7:27 a.m.
o Recommended 3
o < jQuery1710049244491905987064="501">

 Alan
Your understanding of the situation seems very sensible to me.
 March 7, 2013 at 12:45 p.m.
 < jQuery1710049244491905987064="502">

So... therefore we should not also trust white men in three-piece suits, since historically and statistically they are thieves: plundering native lands, the earnings of the middle class while amassing great fortunes through slave-holdings.?
 March 7, 2013 at 1:45 p.m.
 Recommended3
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o Kenny Gannon
o Raleigh
I was born in 1952 and grew up in Atlanta. Today, I live in a fairly new community of about 500 homes featuring a culturally diverse group of families. Yet just down the road a Confederate flag flies on the front of a modular home. I pass it every single day. So do all the other families in our community. I imagine it to reflect the views of those who abide there. I prefer to see it as their way of reminding us all that the problem of racism is still very much with us. Would that every place where racism lives would fly that flag for all to see. No code speech. No pretending to be inclusive. In fact, the more people like Antonin Scalia mock racial entitlements like voting, the greater chance we have of seeing them pushed to side. Still, I say to everyone be patient. In fifty years, the hegemony of arrogant elites like Scalia will have become the supplicants begging for fairness from the new non-white face of America. I won't live to see it but I love imagining it.
o March 7, 2013 at 7:27 a.m.
o Recommended 40

 A note of reality
 Planet Earth
... and you've just confirmed the racist assumptions of every racist on the planet. Well played, sir.

o pat pappano
o Southbury CT
I imagine myself being similarly challenged by a deli employee and feel I would be able to detect whether it was acting out or a genuine reaction to a perceived theft. Why not clear the air and find out. What makes this case so dramatic is that the innocent shopper is black. Since the employee is identified as "good," we can assume it was an honest mistake. Perpetuating claims of victimization over legitimate business actions, perpetuates racism itself. I recall the time angry neighbors stormed over to their new enclave homeowner, Nat King Cole, to state they didn't want any undesirables moving into the gated community, and Nat replied: "Neither do I."
o March 7, 2013 at 7:27 a.m.
o Recommended 12
o < jQuery1710049244491905987064="506">

o fletcherproctor
o Sarajevo, BiH
A few years ago I completed a masters thesis at Dartmouth that focused on slavery and the mind of a particular slave owner - Landon Carter - as reflected in his diaries. One of the most significant steps in my process was a one-on-one seminar I attended with an African-American faculty member. I am white and I started referring to that seminar as "race therapy" because of the racism it forced me to look at, in the dominant culture of America, and in myself. I think of myself as one of those "good people" but I came to believe that it is almost impossible for a white person who grew up in America to fully escape culturally embedded racism. I cannot change the fact that I am white and that I had absorbed that dominant cultural norm from my first breath. All I can is strive to overcome it, and try to raise my children to be one step closer to shedding racist prejudice. For what it's worth, Mr. Whitaker, please accept my apologies.
o March 7, 2013 at 7:27 a.m.
o Recommended 17
o < jQuery1710049244491905987064="509">

o fjsalazar
o Massachusetts
Some years ago in conversation with some friends, including a mixed race couple, the talk turned to a new guy who had recently joined a club we all frequented. Someone asked, what is this new guy like, maybe I have seen him? I said something like, "oh, he's about 6' 1, athletic, short hair, professional guy." Then the white husband of the black woman put in, "He also happens to be black".

I instantly saw that my lame, well-meaning white-guy attempt to be "race neutral" did no service to anyone; rather, I was not treating this man the way I would like to be treated. In my case the consequences were just personal embarrassment, but this is really no different from the deli incident, where race becomes the silent rationale for treatment of another in a way that you would violently resist if directed at yourself.

The Golden Rule. It will work, if we apply it.
o March 7, 2013 at 7:29 a.m.
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o < jQuery1710049244491905987064="515">

 Mike Schumann
 St. Paul, MN
People are too sensitive about this. If the person had been German or some other nationality, you could have mentioned that and no one would have blinked. The fact that someone is black is a very significant identifying feature (just like size, etc.). Just because you mention that doesn't automatically make you a racist.
 March 7, 2013 at 12:45 p.m.
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o Ian McCabe
o College Point,NY
All kinds of people have all kinds of prejudices. Everybody has rascist inclinations the "good people" and the "bad people." The columnist gives the impression he thinks he is somewhat immune. The truth comes out in the last sentence. His wife nurses steadfastedly a grievance from decades ago and chooses to tar millions with the same brush. Thereby giving credence to my first sentence.
o March 7, 2013 at 7:37 a.m.
o Recommended 53

 lastcardjb
 ct
She doesn't have a prejudice, instead an open wound. She is not marginalizing a people by pre-judging them, she is saying, "if i see racism, i make no excuses for it." big difference. If she sees bad people its because they have just done or are doing bad things - in this case overt racism.
 March 7, 2013 at 12:50 p.m.
 Recommended 1

o Nikkei
o Montreal
So let me if I've got the point of this column - people (other than blacks) who instinctively react with fear and suspicion to a black man in certain circumstances are latent racists, regardless of whether friends, co-workers etc. describe these people as "good'.

Mr. Coates' explanation for people's conduct is more than a little simplistic.

Surely he wouldn't suggest that the following remarks uttered by Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. reflect the latent racism of "good" man:

"There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved..."

But if "good" blacks who might sometimes instinctively react with fear and suspicion to other blacks aren't racist then it seems Mr. Coates should take a good hard look in the mirror and ask himself who is calling whom what.
o March 7, 2013 at 7:50 a.m.
o Recommended 18
o < jQuery1710049244491905987064="520">

o Tina
o Edwards
I am white. I took the Harvard test on subconscious racial preferences. Turns out, I subconsciously prefer black people over white. My explanation? I know too many white people.

The fact is that bigotry, racism, subjective judgement, it runs within all of us, equally. We must struggle against that to treat all others with humanity. We learn to do that by knowing and learning to love those who are different from us, and learning from them. So, I say, go back to that deli, get to know that employee, give them the opportunity to learn, deep down, that a black man is, at heart, as honest and forthright as any white man. Answer fear with kindness, and help to change a heart.
o March 7, 2013 at 7:52 a.m.
o Recommended15
o < jQuery1710049244491905987064="521">

o Mark Stevens
o Brisbane
I'm sorry but sometime perfectly innocent white people and asian people get stopped and frisked by policemen or shopkeepers. And black people too. There is more that a remote possiblility that sometimes the stop may be objectively reasonable although erroneous. Based on a one-off event, concluding that this white merchant was racist and should be boycotted, sounds a bit like racial steroetyping to me. The merchant apologized; man-up and accept the apology.
o March 7, 2013 at 7:52 a.m.
o Recommended30
o < jQuery1710049244491905987064="620">

 Crozet
Whatever one's views about our culturally ingrained racism or racial profiling of crime, the application of stop and frisk is not even-handed: ( ). Blacks and Latinos in NYC are heavily and disproportionately targeted, and overwhelmingly innocent. Our citizens are supposed to be afforded equal protection and a presumption of innocence under the law. Things are better now than fifty years ago, but looking at comments here and elsewhere, we may still be having these discussions fifty years hence.
 March 7, 2013 at 8:37 a.m.
 Recommended10
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 Flyingbird
 Detroit, MI
It happened to me in Upper New York traveling to a family wedding in MA. As the attendant said to use the stump since all the restrooms were broken, my father stopped pumping gas and we left that gas station to find another. Since it was an expectation in the south, the harshness of the experience remans with me to this day. As a professional traveling around the U.S., it continues to be the case whether wearing a suit and tie or casual clothes that despite a doctorate and more than 30 years of serving as an senior leader in higher education institutions, indignities are suffered (not imagined but intentional). The illustrations would take much longer than this space allows. For those who seem to take the claims as incredulous walk a few feet in these shoes or others who have had these experiences before suggesting otherwise. it might make for more civil discussion and understanding.
 March 7, 2013 at 9:19 a.m.
 Recommended 6
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Paris, France

The owner "a good man" apologized to a fault. The employee was doing his job. Yes, Mr. Whittaker is black. The employee thought he was a shoplifter. White people also shoplift. Possibly, he would've acted the same way it the alleged shoplifter was white. We'll never know because he wasn't asked--and, in any case, it would've ruined the tone of this writer's self-pitying rant. We have a black president, a black middle class and of course, Mr. Whittaker and other talented artists of color whose value is recognized in our society. But yes, racism does persist. And any action that could conceivably be perceived as racist will be pounced on in righteous justification by Mr. Coates and others who need to keep the fires of racism going--from both ends.

March 7, 2013 at 7:59 a.m.
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o Matt
o Philly
I think most problems that black people have are their own fault and not that of white people or some ill-defined institutional racism. I think this author uses ideas like this to obfuscate unrelated things like the racial wealth gap which I don't think any white people would attribute to race relations.
o March 7, 2013 at 7:59 a.m.
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 Grant Wiggins
 Hopewell nj
Wow. Your 1st sentence explains our deep, festering wound quite well.
 March 7, 2013 at 1:45 p.m.
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 LE
 West Bloomfield, MI
You mean like not getting that job despite having three college degrees? Or being charged a higher rate of interest for a car or home although you have the same credit score like similar white customers? Or being steered into certain neighborhoods because of your race? Or being stopped or followed in that nice suburban neighborhood by the police although you actually live there and the police cannot afford to? Or driving that really great and expensive car and being pulled over for not signalling a lane change? I guess it's "black people" own fault for not knowing their place. The thought of it.
 March 7, 2013 at 1:45 p.m.
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o Joe
Coates provides no evidence that Whitaker was singled out because he is black. While I recognize the problem he's diagnosing, why should we make that assumption in this particular case?
o March 7, 2013 at 7:59 a.m.
o Recommended 9

o Fae Way
o St Paul
What happened to having black actors in commercials? Other than Colt 45 ads. Sitcoms? I only see blacks on sitcoms when the majority of the cast is also black.
I've heard that blacks living in Eurooe don't face the same discrimination as in the US. If this is true, why?
o March 7, 2013 at 7:59 a.m.
o Recommended 2
o < jQuery1710049244491905987064="637">

o anguskip
o new york, ny
I don't want to give cover to racists and idiots, and I respect the feelings of many black people who are hypersensitive to racism given experiences in their lives. But having said that i am at a loss to understand what is racist about this whole episode? There may be racial elements here, but a shopkeeper stopping a customer he believes to be stealing...this happens all the time in NY. If the shop happens to be in a part of town where there are lot of blacks then it is not out of the question a black customer will be stopped. Further, if shoplifting is a common occurrence or many of the shoplifters in the past were black, is it really unreasonable for the shop owner or his staff to make a mistake? Why even assume the customer was stopped because he was black, is it really the only possible reason? Is forest whitaker so well known? The Times reported a story a few months back of a white woman on the subway who sat next to and chatted with Jay-z without any idea who he was...

No question a mistake was made here, but given the realities of the situation, is this really the episode that should make black-Americans question the state of race and racism in America today?
o March 7, 2013 at 7:59 a.m.
o Recommended20
o < jQuery1710049244491905987064="638">

o Michael
o New York, NY
I don't have any idea what facts led the employee to accuse Mr. Whittaker of shoplifting but that won't stop me from concluding it was racially motivated since everyone knows that celebrities of any color never take things that don't belong to them (like gold necklaces for example) from stores.
o March 7, 2013 at 7:59 a.m.
o Recommended 6
o < jQuery1710049244491905987064="642">

 Kenarmy
 Columbia, mo
If you lay your hands on me, that's an assault. You should go to prison. A private citizen frisking someone is an assault. The owner probably didn't want to call the police, because if he was wrong he could have been sued.
 March 7, 2013 at 12:50 p.m.
 Recommended4
 < jQuery1710049244491905987064="643">

o Valerie
o Putnam County
The treatment of Forest Whitaker was ridiculous, but not just for the inherent racism of assuming the big black guy is up to no good, but also for this: Since when is a store employee allowed to frisk someone? Imagine a deli employee frisking a female customer, either black or white.
o March 7, 2013 at 7:59 a.m.
o Recommended111

 kleinevans0
 bandit
Actually, I (a female) was frisked by a deli store owner in the late 80s. He lifted up my shirt and looked under it.
 March 7, 2013 at 8:37 a.m.
 Recommended4

o Victor O
Other than a shallow rant, does the author ever ask the question, was there ANY basis, reasonable or otherwise, for his employee to have a greater suspicion of a black customer than a white customer? Or was this simply the act of an inborn racist, eager to insult a black man?

Solving a problem requires more than name-calling, and requires a comprehensive understanding of all aspects of an issue.
o March 7, 2013 at 7:59 a.m.
o Recommended9
o < jQuery1710049244491905987064="647">

 trevor
 maine
Victor O,
Your use of English isn't that expert, but I will tell you anyway that you have misunderstood the function of Coates's essay. It wasn't to ask questions. It was to express fear for injury to his children, whom he sees as innocents, who will have that innocence killed by someone like the deli clerk. A basic human instinct is to protect one's offspring. To be able to do that is the real definition of power. To be unable to do it in a harsh, unforgiving system is beyond frustrating. Therefore, Coates's resistance to giving anymore of his money to the locus of the image burned into his brain: his precious children will suffer needlessly. He is powerless, except for that one gesture of withholding a small amount of money.
 March 7, 2013 at 9:24 a.m.
 Recommended3
 < jQuery1710049244491905987064="648">

 Mulling
 North Carolina
Surely, you're not implying that, if shoplifting convictions are higher among Blacks, the employee was justified?! By that thinking, because the overwhelming majority of crimes are committed by males, any police-wannabe should have the right to stop you just because of your gender!
 March 7, 2013 at 12:50 p.m.
 Recommended3
 < jQuery1710049244491905987064="649">

 Linda Fitzjarrell
 St. Croix Falls WI
But with each slight, the anger rises.
 March 7, 2013 at 12:50 p.m.
 Recommended2
 < jQuery1710049244491905987064="650">

o Daniel
o Philadelphia
My lay opinion is that 60-70% of the antipathy for President Obama (e.g. Trump, Palin, the Tea Party, etc etc) is race-based, NOT politically substantive. There has been an 813% increase in the number of hate groups in the United States over the past years. Gee, what happened four years ago? The police chief of Montgomery who apologized to Congressman Lewis is a great man. But the nation still has a long, long way to go. It breaks my heart daily.
o March 7, 2013 at 7:59 a.m.
o Recommended46
o < jQuery1710049244491905987064="652">

 suki
 Burlington, VT
I completely agree with you. What bothers me is that we the people don't actively do anything about it. The rudeness of the Congress toward President Obama makes me want to scream, "When will we learn?" Instead I grumble to myself, and listen in shock to the likes of Senator Mitch McConnell declare that he had one goal in Obama's first term — to make sure that he was a one-term president. And you can be certain that was a blatantly racist statement. Where was the outcry? Until those of us of every color who are so shocked by these outrageous attitudes raise our voices together and let Congress (for starters) and our holier-than-thou Supreme Court know we won't tolerate this anymore, we will have lost the war because we won't fight the battles.
 March 7, 2013 at 9:51 a.m.
 Recommended2
 < jQuery1710049244491905987064="653">

 Daniel
 Philadelphia
addendum: There has been an 813% increase in the number of hate groups in the United States over the past FOUR years. That is according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
 March 7, 2013 at 12:50 p.m.
 Recommended1
 < jQuery1710049244491905987064="654">

 Bluffton, SC
I disagree, slightly. 90% of the antipathy for President Obama is racial.
 March 7, 2013 at 12:50 p.m.
 Recommended1
 < jQuery1710049244491905987064="655">

o AVD911
My mom is my hero. Where she got her fierceness as a black woman born in 1932 I have no idea. I just remember as a child she would take us "downtown" to shop and this one time we stopped in the local restaurant. She ordered us hotdogs. The waistress came back with 5 cold/not cooked dogs. My mom looked at the waitress and slung each plate back across the counter. Then she stormed out. I have never ever forgotten that day. I immediately knew what it meant even though I had never known racism before.I was 8 years old.
o March 7, 2013 at 7:59 a.m.
o Recommended10

o d2
o Haverford, PA
How little has changed.
In the late 60s, in Ann Arbor, a black friend found that he was closely followed when he went into the nicer shops downtown unless he shed his grad student blue jeans for a suit and tie.
One day he came to the teaching fellows' lounge too angry to talk. It turned out his mother, who had spent a career in a segregated school in Florida and risen to the rank of principal had been told, after her school was merged with an "integrated" white school, that she could stay on, on the custodial staff...
o March 7, 2013 at 7:59 a.m.
o Recommended41

o Matt
o RI
I am a white male, in my sixties. I have lived through a lot, and done my best to treat everyone I meet with respect. I am saddened that becuase I may look like the deli employee who wronged Mr. Whitaker, I will apparently be judged as one of the "good people" you are tired of. I am a good person.
o March 7, 2013 at 8:07 a.m.
o Recommended8
o < jQuery1710049244491905987064="779">

o Marie Burns
o Fort Myers, Florida
I don't disagree with anything you write, but I can tell you from personal experience that white people gets falsely accused, too. When I was 40 years old, I looked like my avatar there, & to give you a better idea, I appeared in a Hollywood film at about that time as the wife of a Congressman -- I was cast for my appearance, not for my Oscar-worthy acting skills. That is to say, I had that upper-middle-class white-lady look.

Nonetheless, I was suspected of stealing a 600-pound safe & emptying it of cash & documents. My boss fingered me. The police read me my rights & interrogated me. Fortunately for me, I had an air-tight alibi -- I was 100 miles away at the time of the crime, I had receipts to show it; plus dozens of witnesses saw me at the distant place. Still, I lost my job, as my supervisor -- and everyone I worked with -- considered me "untrustworthy."

A few years later, I read something in the newspaper that made me suspect that the person who stole the safe was my accuser. I called one of the detectives who had interrogated me & reported this new information. He said, yeah, he always liked my boss for the theft, but he couldn't prove it.

People who look like Forest Whitaker are a lot more likely to be victims of false accusations than are people who look like me. But it isn't always racism. Sometimes it's opportunism. Go back to the deli.

The Constant Weader at
o March 7, 2013 at 8:23 a.m.
o Recommended20
o < jQuery1710049244491905987064="786">

o Larry
o The Fifth Circle
I'm sorry; but I think you mix up many different things in this column.

First, not everyone is going to recognize Mr. Whitaker (and just because he's an actor it doesn't mean he's above suspicion--just look at Winona Ryder). It's very possible the clerk misinterpreted a simple movement.

The Professor Gates incident has been dissected over and over. I think the professor simply felt he was above listening to the officer.

Michael Richards was egregiously stupid and perhaps latently racist, although I doubt it.

I am an affluent, educated, white male. I've been stopped, told to lie down in the street, and frisked by cops in NYC. So not every unpleasant incident is because of racism.
o March 7, 2013 at 8:24 a.m.
o Recommended26
o < jQuery1710049244491905987064="787">

o Wilburpup
o Virginia
What makes this necessarily a racist incident? The employee could just as easily be paranoid about shoplifters.
o March 7, 2013 at 8:25 a.m.
o Recommended6
o < jQuery1710049244491905987064="797">

 Cambridge, MA
 Verified
Don't be naive! How many non-black people have been suspected of shoplifting? Happens occasionally, but rarely.
 March 7, 2013 at 8:33 a.m.
 Recommended22
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 Marie R.
 NM
Sure, the assumption was that black man stole something when he did not and the employee felt justified in touching the person he suspected because the employee is paranoid. I think it's less likely that he was paranoid in the true mental health definition of the word than that he was "paranoid" about black people when they are not dressed like the upper middle class.
 March 7, 2013 at 9:17 a.m.
 Recommended1
 < jQuery1710049244491905987064="833">

 Wilburpup
 Virginia
Just asking. Do you have any numbers? I am simply pointing out that, in any one incident like this, it is hard to know with certainty. There is no corroborating evidence, such as a racial epithet shouted. Of course I do not deny the possibility, even probability, of it being as advertised but I think the article and responses show massive "confirmation bias".
 March 7, 2013 at 9:40 a.m.
 Recommended1
 < jQuery1710049244491905987064="798">

 Charlotte, NC
Your response is typical of those who want to excuse or ignore the reality of racism. The fact of the matter is the person frisked was a black man and as a black person you never know whether the way you're treated is because you're black or for some other reason, Most times we black people try to think we were disrespected, discriminated against, maligned for some other reason, but we're usually wrong. Our blackness trumps all. Why can't you assume the act WAS borne of racial bias and leave it at that? Probably because you hate the fact that racism is so much a part of the white psyche, even if it's not conscious. The point of the article is "good people" (yourself included I'm sure) never want to acknowledge their racism because it's not they way most people want to think of themselves, but, hey, it is exactly what it is; black people were not meant to be a part of the American story, as the author aptly states. That FACT has not changed.
 March 7, 2013 at 12:50 p.m.
 Recommended3
 < jQuery1710049244491905987064="799">

Never worked in retail before?.

The person who is stealing is the white woman with a stroller and two kids.

And you dont have to believe me, which is why they are able to steal and go unnoticed.
[What a liar! When I worked in security at Toys ‘R Us, I never encountered a shoplifter matching that description.]
 March 7, 2013 at 1:45 p.m.
 Recommended 5
 < jQuery1710049244491905987064="800">

o Sam
o Las Vegas, NV
Was racism/racial profiling the central impetus behind this unfortunate brush with no less than an "Oscar winner"? Absolutely. Will mediocre writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates have an inexhaustible trove from which to draw when their creativity is dehydrated, reverting to sadly written racism articles as an opportunistic means of self-promotion? Absolutely.

To be fair, we should feature white writers who have been harassed by groups of blacks or Latinos or Asians for no other reason than being white (you may substitute white for any race of your choosing, along with exchanging the latter components as you see fit). Undoubtedly the country segregated blacks to a third-tier lifestyle for much of its history. Times have changed; the vitriol of racism will never change (though racism has decreased substantially). So long as different races exist in a democratic society valued most perhaps on free speech, people of all creeds and colors will find reasons to dislike the other breed, if not their neighbor next door who looks exactly like them.
o March 7, 2013 at 8:37 a.m.
o Recommended8
o < jQuery1710049244491905987064="809">

 Marylyn Huff
 Black Mountain, NC
Of course, white people are harassed individually. Bullying of any kind is unacceptable. However, the systemic racism that focuses on black people and increasingly on Latino people must be recognized and addressed. It can be very subtle, but no less damaging. Members of the dominate culture often don't have a clue. White privilege is just the way the world works here in the states. (It will be interesting to see what happens when demographics continue to shift.) Whenever someone is demeaned - whether black, women, old white men, immigrants - we are all diminished. If we only feel important when we are "better than someone else", our sense of self is on hollow ground.

Unfortunately some politicians and preachers (of all religions) know they can better control people when they can fan fear of the "other."
 March 7, 2013 at 10:12 a.m.
 Recommended9
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o gentlewomanfarmer
o Massachusetts
When a Justice of the United States Supreme Court speaks of the Voting Rights Act as a perpetuation of racial entitlement, the frisking of a man by a deli worker because that man is black should neither surprise nor shock us. The insidious ignorance that is racism - overt or covert - does not itself discriminate.
o March 7, 2013 at 8:37 a.m.
o Recommended 37

o jck
o nj
If the goal of this opinion piece is to worsen racial divisiveness,
then the author has succeeded.
o March 7, 2013 at 8:37 a.m.
o Recommended 22

 ann
 WI
The incident he speaks of does that. The column does not. Would you have such things simply ignored?
 March 7, 2013 at 12:50 p.m.
 Recommended 7

So. Let me see if I understand you.

Whites will hate Blacks more because Blacks talk about racism in an open forum?

(You do know Blacks talk about these events behind closed doors? )
 March 7, 2013 at 12:50 p.m.
 Recommended 9

 Grant Wiggins
 Hopewell nj
Wow. I just bow my head and shake it if you believe this to be true.

Put yourself in the actor's shoes. Just for a moment. How does it feel?
 March 7, 2013 at 1:42 p.m.
 Recommended3

 Infinite Observer
Someone with your mindset is probably a lost cause to begin with.
 March 7, 2013 at 4:09 p.m.
 Recommended 2

o Dave McCombs
o Tokyo
Everyone, including is racist in one way or another to one degree or another.
How then, to distinguish between "racists'' who merely subconsciously harbor a preference for one cultural/ethnic group over another or who may think in terms of cliches from someone who consciously, deliberately behaves as superior by virtue of their own ethnicity or race?
There is a categorical difference between, say, participating in a lynching, or rationalizing one, and, say, preferring to marry a member of one particular ethnic group over another. Both are racist, but they are nothing at all like the same thing.
By declaring the frisking at the cafe racism, Coates is blurring the issue rather than clarifying it.
o March 7, 2013 at 8:37 a.m.
o Recommended5
o < jQuery1710049244491905987064="818">

 F.C.Money
 Ithaca, NY
As are you.
 March 7, 2013 at 1:45 p.m.
 Recommended2
 < jQuery1710049244491905987064="819">

o Art Strauss
o Gilmanton, NH
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which is the most potent fighter against racism, has documented a dramatic rise in the number of white supremecist hate groups since the election of President Obama. As our country becomes more tolerant, e.g. gay rights, it also becomes more reactionary. Coates is one of the most cogent observers of our urban society. I'll never get tired of his writing.
o March 7, 2013 at 8:37 a.m.
o Recommended42
o < jQuery1710049244491905987064="926">

o John Zotto
o Cape Canaveral, Florida
I correct African Americans on a regular basis for using the term "white boy" in my presence. I correct African Americans for using the term caucasian in my presence. I correct African Americans for painting all "old white men" for being gun toting, conservative republicans. I have been stopped and cited for a traffic violation by an African American trooper. Did he stop me because I was an Italian American ? I too find it offensive that President Obama is asked to produce his papers but in this case you are a creating a racist incident. Is it possible Mr. Whitaker was frisked because the employee thought he had done something wrong or are you implying the employee decided "I am going to frisk an African American today because I feel like it ?" The frisking was overboard and Mr. Whitaker was violated but not for being a certain color.
o March 7, 2013 at 8:37 a.m.
o Recommended 18

 LE
 West Bloomfield, MI
Yes he was! Your comments typify the wide divide in perceptions of racism between Africans Americans and Caucasians. You are absolutely unwilling to even entertain the possibility that this incident was based on race, and that's the problem. It's not based on race only if that Deli had a policy of frisking all patrons suspected of shoplifting and enforced it uniformly. What would one shoplift from a deli anyhow? A piece of salami? Utterly ridiculous.
 March 7, 2013 at 9:51 a.m.
 Recommended 6

 sallyb
 chicagoIL
Very possibly there was something in the way he moved that aroused suspicion, and would have done so even if he were any other color. The fact that Mr Coates has been patronizing the same deli for some time and hasn't noticed a pattern of racism until now seems to support that scenario. But the reality is that people of (any) color are disproportionately stopped by shopkeepers, and the police.
 March 7, 2013 at 10:49 a.m.

 Madison
you could have a bonfire with all of your straw man arguements.
 March 7, 2013 at 12:50 p.m.
 Recommended4

 J. Giacalone
You miss the point of the column which was that in the same situation a white person would have been given the benefit of the doubt.
 March 7, 2013 at 12:50 p.m.
 Recommended 3

 F.C.Money
 Ithaca, NY
And you know this how?
 March 7, 2013 at 1:45 p.m.
 Recommended 1

North Carolina
Was the "good person" fired? That's the real test of the owner's horror at his employee's conduct. Because I have a feeling had the employee been a Black man who insulted a White woman, he most certainly would have been fired.

Women put up with versions of this too. When my now-a-physician daughter told her freshman adviser she wanted to earn a B.S. in chemistry, he said -- as he entered the info on her file -- "We'll just pencil that in."

March 7, 2013 at 8:37 a.m.
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o RG
o New York, NY
NYT Pick
I am an African-American man, a professional, and a scientist. When I hear of a story like this, I certainly identify with the rage, humiliation, and frustration of being surveilled or singled out for negative attention for probably no other reason than my race. But I also understand crime statistics. After considering one concern against the other, I often honestly don't know how to feel.
o March 7, 2013 at 9:17 a.m.
o Recommended 683
o < jQuery1710049244491905987064="946">

 marconistico
 New York City
I recently read that crime statistics do not actually explain the "fear of the black man" that is engrained in American society. Apparently African-American people do not commit more crimes than white people. They do not deal or use drugs more than whites, do not commit any other crime more than white (or any other race, for that matter). However in our culture they are constantly singled out as "the criminals" (movies, TV shows, reality shows, media in general). It's everywhere. Perhaps that's what should be reflected upon. And maybe changed for good. It's a matter of perception, which is often false. At least that is what I understand from recent studies quoted in a brilliant book by Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow (and other articles).
 March 7, 2013 at 10:49 a.m.
 Recommended4
 < jQuery1710049244491905987064="947">

 EmpiricalWarrior
 Goshen, USA
Here indeed is the crux of our great and ongoing American racial problem. Some years ago I saw a discussion on BET among a group of African-American journalists in which one of them admitted with a palpable regret that he would be more alarmed encountering a group of black male teenagers on a quiet street than he would a similar group of whites. The seemingly intractable aftereffects of the historic injustices of slavery and overt oppression that remain concentrated in our inner city ghettos haunts us all.

It would be nice if there were some quick and easy fix, a way to repair the damage wrought over centuries, but there is not. The solution is not obvious and probably not singular. The most important first step though, if we are serious about addressing the problem, would be to cease immediately the casual criminalization of young black males for minor offences that has been properly identified as the new Jim Crow.

Beyond that, if we really want to rescue the people of the ghetto from the cycle of poverty, crime and social dysfunction in which they are trapped, then the need for education and jobs is paramount. The inner city ghetto has to become something other than a place where escape or perish are the only options. When that happens the incidence of seemingly casual racism will likely diminish and the sting of those that persist will greatly lessen.

 sub
 nyc
thank you for your honesty. most of the arrogant indignation on this board would do well to consider your words. it is all very very complicated, and while much of the world is trying to turn the hands of time on racially based stereotyping, the unintelligent suggestion that this is all so obvious and obviously solved is the domain of the arrogant, faux-intellectual left.
 March 7, 2013 at 4:09 p.m.
 Recommended1
 < jQuery1710049244491905987064="949">

New York
What did Mr. Whitaker have to say about the incident?

What did the employee have to say?

In my view - you've taken this incident and you've concluded that "little has changed" in half a century. And you've even stepped up to offer a theory about presumably 'moral people' who are, in fact, are racists in hiding.

Are these claims true?

As for the first claim - is it true in terms of institutional racism that 'little has changed"? Is it even true in that most difficult of quantifiable assessments - the aggregate inward feelings of our entire generation? Or even the citizens of city of New York?

Also - how does Mr. Whitaker's success ... which you celebrated in the opening gambit - alter the calculus of what happened to him?

Finally, I was struck by the strangeness of the "everyone [white] is monster in hiding" argument - and that, in the end, 'good people' don't actually exist because some moronic white kid called your wife's cousin a racist name a few decades ago.

Race in America is no easy thing. But don't blind yourself to the true complexity of reality because of a few - or even a minority - of fools out there. We're bigger than that. This article makes the United States a lot simpler and uglier than it actually is.

March 7, 2013 at 9:17 a.m.
Recommended 3
< jQuery1710049244491905987064="952">

A S Knisely
London, UK
For the NYTimes ombudsman and the editor who approved publication of this essay: Not to include links to the interviews with the delicatessen owner, whom the essay seems to taint -- as a "good person" -- with racism or with approving racism, is, I believe, a flaw in your editorial process. To have provided on-line access to those interviews would have been salutary.

Interesting that in the last sentence Mr Coates aligns himself with his wife, and oddly, with the "good people". A child abused her cousin, uttering a racist slur, and it has been war ever since, he remarks of her -- war against... whom? Is she hostile toward persons who might, MIGHT, make a racist remark toward her son, a pre-emptive hostility, a wariness? How might she identify such persons, the persons to be regarded with suspicion till they prove their bona fides? Might she keep her guard up against anyone who is not black?

No difference there, or so it seems to me, from (possibly for reasons based in experiences as vividly felt as Mrs Coates is said to have felt her childhood experience) keeping that just a bit closer eye on Mr Whitaker as he strolls your workplace's aisles. The delicatessen employee got it wrong. Mrs Coates will, I expect, now and again get it wrong. A great shame either way.

But interesting, interesting, how Mrs Coates, Mr Coates, and that delicatessen employee all may be prejudiced, racially prejudiced, whilst seeing themselves as wholly justified in being so.

March 7, 2013 at 9:17 a.m.
Recommended 11
< jQuery1710049244491905987064="953">

Orlando, Fl
I do not see anything in the description of events that indicates the employee's being prompted to accuse Whitaker for any reason of color. Perhaps more completely illustrative context would have helped or perhaps the error was of another kind. Perhaps the employee mis-saw something that led to the incident. Nowadays, when a non-Black person rightly or wrongly, although genuinely, accuses a Black person of something, the cause of the accusation is immediately considered racist. This type of thinking is racist....
Or perhaps I simply misread this...
2. March 7, 2013 at 9:17 a.m.
3. Recommended7
4. < jQuery1710049244491905987064="955">

o Monty H.
o Kansas City, MO
Once upon a time I worked as store security. A middle-aged black man came into the store and went into the jewelry department. I continued my rounds and when I came back he was still there. He was constantly looking around, thumbing through ring boxes and then putting his hands inside his pockets. To make matters worse, it was winter and he had on a large coat, so it hard for me to see exactly what was going on. The store had a chronic history of theft from this particular display. We'd moved it out into the open and redesigned it to a circular layout but it still remained a "hot spot".

When the man abruptly decided to leave without purchasing anything I stopped him. I asked him to empty his pockets. I didn't frisk him because I am not an agent of the law and that would be illegal. The man had every right to refuse, but did not. There was nothing of "ours" in his pockets. Instead, he explained he had a large bundle of cash and was constantly checking to make sure it was still there and looking around because he was concerned someone might take it. All very legitimate and understandable. I was wrong and apologized profusely. He understood completely, accepted my apology and I saw him shopping there less than a week later.

Am I a racist? According to Mr. Coates, yes, yes I am. I never thought so, but I've been wrong before. Oh, I forgot to mention...I am also black.
o March 7, 2013 at 9:17 a.m.
o Recommended28
o < jQuery1710049244491905987064="957">

 Andrew
 Pittsburgh
I can't speak for Mr. Coats, but I'd point out that you made your decision based on behavior, not race. It's perfectly reasonable to be cautious of people in a store who act that way. I'm assuming that Whitaker wasn't thumbing through the single-serving food displays and tub of gumballs.
 March 7, 2013 at 1:45 p.m.
 Recommended 2
 < jQuery1710049244491905987064="958">

 Don
 Bronx
Great story!
But...(always a but) would he have been understanding if you were you but white? (Is that possible - for you to be you, but white? Is it possible for me to be me, but black?)

Would he have understood if he were white and you were you, but black?

Finally, what if both of you were white?

By the way we could all benefit from working for a few years as a security guard (I know I did.) That perspective very quickly tears the mask of civilization from many of our fellow country men.

Anyhow - great story.
 March 7, 2013 at 1:45 p.m.
 < jQuery1710049244491905987064="959">

 Earl
 New York
There are many blacks who harbor prejudices against other blacks consciously or subconsciously. Take an implicit association test, they are available via the internet. You may be prejudice against your own race and not be aware. The indoctrination is omnipresent and starts at early ages. Black children have been found to at an earlier age, associate negativity to blackness.
 March 7, 2013 at 4:09 p.m.
 Recommended 2
 < jQuery1710049244491905987064="960">

o PaulR.
o Austin, Texas
I can not help it, this article insults, angers, disappoints, and even scares me a little. Perhaps it was meant to, though I doubt it did so in the way the author intended.

As a parent, I know that sooner or later someone is going to say something truly awful about you, your child, your spouse, or some group you are part of. White, Black, Asian, Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, Southerner, Northerner, red haired, left handed - sooner or later, some person will express a truly hateful opinion. Rudely, and to your face.

When Black/White/Asian/Indian/Pakistani/Red-haired/left handed/you-fill-in-the-blank people claim prejudice, and consequently, special treatment, it hurts us all. The act hurts us spiritually, morally, mentally, emotionally, legally, socially, and in all the other ways one can imagine.

The laws being color blind, give each and every person an obligation to respect everyone else's rights. They are not perfect, and when the law and that obligation fail, it leads to one group believing their rights are more important than everyone else's. And that is when our society fails.

When people see nebulous hidden forces driving a conspiracy against them, it is the same phenomena where people believe their destiny is revealed by the horoscope printed in the newspaper. And every bit as ridiculous.
o March 7, 2013 at 9:17 a.m.
o Recommended 5
o < jQuery1710049244491905987064="961">

o Ciren
o Manhattan
I think there's danger in assuming racism based little more than the different races of the victim and perpetrator. People do ugly and wrong things all the time, independent of race. My friend was mugged by a black person years ago in Spanish Harlem-- it doesn't mean the attack was racially motivated, even if "I find my self laughing in the dark trying to imagine" her being mugged if she were black.

Similarly, I have cautioned friends not to assume they were being treated unkindly because of perceived antisemitism. Unless the perpetrator has explicitly said something antisemitic, there's a decent chance that the only person in the situation who has made a pejorative assumption based solely on religious affiliation is the victim himself. Err on the side of grace; if you imagine racial or religious motivation behind any slight, without actual evidence of such, you risk becoming the greater bigot or racist yourself.
o March 7, 2013 at 9:29 a.m.
o Recommended 4

o Ruminatour
o Florida
This is unpleasant but it needs to be said.The fact is that blacks are disproportionately represented at all levels of the criminal justice system. And people who work in tough neighborhoods can probably back up this statistic with anecdotal data of their own. So, simply telling these people that it is bad to hold stereotypes will not make them go away.

Does this justify individual cases of racism? Well, I would certainly be upset if I were that Harvard Professor. But these (perhaps outrageous) incidents are part of a much broader trend that one cannot simply dismiss by stating that racism is bad.

o Charles Pierce
o Stuart FL
This is not the old south. This is NYC the bastion of Liberalism and Progressive politics in America. What it proves to me is that the racism is not just about what happened a 100 years ago but it is about the everyday mistrust of African-Americans by all Americans. Couple that with the Supreme Court arguments over the Voting Rights Act, it may now be time to extend it to all of the state and local government elections.
o I.M.
o Middlebury, Ct
I can understand why Mr. Coates wishes to withhold his business from this deli which he admits caters to people such as himself. However, the only way we can overcome unconscious racism is by promoting familiarity. Daily casual interactions will ultimately melt barriers for both black and white people. After reacting as he has, Coates should schmooze with others in the deli and do himself and everyone else a favor.
o March 7, 2013 at 9:51 a.m.
o Recommended 5

o Patgal3
o West palm beach, fl
And our president has this to deal with every day on the public stage. This magnificent man, whom I love, has "to take it" each day. Some days I am ashamed to think of how badly Americans can excuse themselves, this behavior is hateful. What have we been led to believe all of our lives, in our schools, colleges, our churches, in our Constitution, our daily discourse? Everything has changed with Barack Obama in the White House? We have never helped him, not like everybody jumped in to grease the skids for Ronald Reagan during his "depression." We have never been truly "patriotic." Otherwise we would do what is best for our country. It's called Democracy! Or have we been sold a bill of goods for two hundred years?
o March 7, 2013 at 9:51 a.m.
o Recommended 4

o William Case
o Texas
We only read about white celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan, Winona Ryder or Rex Reed when they are actually charged with shoplifting, but their arrests indicate that shops don't regard white celebrities as being beyond suspicion.
o March 7, 2013 at 9:51 a.m.
o Recommended 9

o New Conservative
o New York, NY
Unfortunately the deli has probably experienced shoplifting and it was probably done by blacks and other minorities and not whites or asians. Let's look at the deli owner's perspective here too. Collateral damage but the deli owner has a right to protect his business and livelihood.
o March 7, 2013 at 9:51 a.m.
o Recommended 13

o Judith Testa
o Illinois
Recently I read an intriguing article on the website It noted that white people who make an exaggerated effort to be friendly and polite toward people of color are the same ones who, in stressful situations involving race, will inadvertently reveal the racist attitudes still simmering under that veneer of politeness.

Perhaps a veneer of politeness is indeed better than an undisguised display of racial animosity and suspicion, but I can see why some people of color prefer outright racism. At least then they know up-front who and what they're dealing with. [Bull. Many blacks claim that, as a rhetorical ploy, but none of them means it.]
o March 7, 2013 at 9:51 a.m.
o Recommended 3

 Heartland Harry
 Kansas City
your world seems to full of contradictions.......
 March 7, 2013 at 4:09 p.m.
 Recommended 1

o Hayesur
o Ireland
So is the shop employee being called racist for not recognising Forest Whitaker or or is he being called racist for wrongly accusing a deli patron of stealing? or is it because that wrongly accussed happens to be black?

I fear for your hypersensitive country and the people in it if a person on the street has to give a second thought before he directs his grievances or suspicion towards somebody if that somebody's skin tone or ethnicity differs from their own.

USA is generations behind the likes of Brazil, The Netherlands or Germany when it comes to tolerance and acceptance. But it's hard to decipher whos at fault, is it a sensitive minority or an intolerant majority?
o March 7, 2013 at 9:51 a.m.
o Recommended 8

 Cynthia
 Alexandria, VA
Not unlike religious tolerance and reacting based on "the other" one's religion, huh?

Still, you do have a point.
 March 7, 2013 at 1:45 p.m.
 Recommended 2

 Sergio Georgini
 Baltimore
If not for this country's historical grounding in racism, which continues today, we probably could accept interactions like the one between Mr Whitaker and the deli employee at face value. Our nation's racism stains most encounters between black and white people in the US. That's how it is, and it isn't hypersensitive to be aware of this, and to fight it.
 March 7, 2013 at 2:01 p.m.
 Recommended 5

o Carlos
o Texas
I doubt anyone will make it to this comment (who can blame them?) but I thought I'd share a story.
My dad is a dark skinned Mexican American who lives in an old money neighborhood in San Antonio. One day he was pushing his lawn mower up the sidewalk getting ready to cut his grass when an old white guy pulled up in a nice car and asked h in broken Spanish how much he charged to mow lawns.
My dad thought that was hilarious. Here he was a prominent professor/psychiatrist being asked to mow lawns because he's Mexican pushing a mower in front of his own house.
Two weeks later in his own neighborhood he sees a Mexican guy chainsawing some branches off a tree and he pulls over to ask ( in Spanish) how much the guy charged for tree work.
Yeah, it turned out it was his house, and the guy was a doctor too. They both cracked up.

o Matthew Brunson
o Houston, TX
Is there a single shred of evidence that the store employee's accusations were based on race? Of course not. It's possible, but Mr. Coates and his readers are taking a dangerous step; assuming that any unfortunate event that happens to a minority is the result of racism. We as Americans love to interject race into situations where it simply does not apply. I'm not making the claim that Whitaker's race had nothing to do with the incident, but I would expect others, including Mr. Coates, to be intellectually honest enough to admit they cannot assume that race played a role at all.

o Pjoe
o Stratford
Sad story, but what's more sad is that you, the writer, are also a good racist person. You've admitted that your wife is a racist - because some individual called her cousin a name 30 years ago. And now you're a racist because another individual accused a black man of stealing. Please don't raise your children to be racists too... What if everyone who ever had negative experience with a black individual decided that they were "at war" with all blacks from that point forward?
o March 7, 2013 at 5:11 p.m.
o Recommended 15

o Gretchen
o Detroit
I'm shocked that you're shocked Mr Coates. NYC must be a more idealistic and naive place than I realized. Come here to Detroit for race relations of the real world. An enormous city of "good people" who think that anything to do with the word "white" is evil, surrounded by innumerable suburbs of "good people" who fear and disdain anything to do with the word "black". But unlike the theme park that is the "greatest city in the world" all of us - on both sides of the now-famous 8 Mile Rd - are too busy scuffling and scrapping to make ends meet to pay any of it too much mind. You have to be able to afford to actually go into the deli before you can get hassled by the "good people" who work there...
o March 7, 2013 at 5:11 p.m.
o Recommended 6

o A Fullbright
o Philadelphia
"In modern America we believe racism to be the property of the uniquely villainous and morally deformed, the ideology of trolls, gorgons and orcs."

Nice strawman. Only a small fraction of Americans believe that; we know that racism isn't always blatant and monstrous, it's often small and pernicious.

Backing up your claim with a quote from 1957 doesn't help; you were being intellectually lazy there. How about citing something only 20 years old, instead of 56 years old?

Hey TN-C, don't you have anything genuine to say?
o March 7, 2013 at 5:11 p.m.
o Recommended 5

o Dudley Dooright
o Cairo, Egypt
You can't just assume this was a 'racist' incident.
We don't know the rest of the story. Maybe Forrest was making a nuisance of himself or lingering in such a manner that it was reasonable to suspect shoplifting. Maybe the deli manager was trying to conscientiously and responsibly perform his work responsibilities. Why jump to condemnation?

People do isn't just any retail manager will tell you.

It is almost as if the author is suggesting that certain people should be beyond reproach or suspicion because of who they are or because they belong to a protected segment of society.

Whites get stopped for shoplifting, pulled over, and questioned by police. This notion that somehow blonde hair is a get out of jail free card is a droll outdated notion that was probably never correct in the first place.

the author may be tired of 'good racists' or whatever...I for one am tired of people who play the race card every time something happens that they don't like.
o March 7, 2013 at 5:11 p.m.
o Recommended 8
o Ed
o Temple Hills, MD
Well if there wasn't random incidents of Black celebrities being treated rudely the author would have nothing to write about.

Also was the deli worker even White? This country is changing. A lot if Anericans have no connection with Americas dark racial past and are forming their negative views of Black Anericans solely based on interactions with African-Americans today.
o March 7, 2013 at 5:11 p.m.
o Recommended 5

o captcrisis0
o New Rochelle, N.Y.
Don't be like your wife. Don't go through life with an attitude.
o March 7, 2013 at 5:11 p.m.
o Recommended 6

o Jorg Lueke
o Minnesota
So your solution to racist acts is self segregation?
o March 7, 2013 at 5:11 p.m.
o Recommended 5

o Galen
o Miami
Try imagining a famous white actress arrested for shoplifting.
o March 7, 2013 at 5:11 p.m.
o Recommended 7

o Rup
o Jacksonville, Fl.
The author writes, "The promise of America is that those who play by the rules, who observe the norms of the “middle class,” will be treated as such." African-Americans and whites who believe this have been misled. Although I am white and middle-class and play by the rules I am sometimes treated poorly by all sorts of people! Being middle-class does not innoculate you from rudeness, insults, misfortunes or even prejudice.
o March 7, 2013 at 5:11 p.m.
o Recommended 3
o may
o Toronto
Has it occurred to any of you hand-wringers that the employee simply thought he saw a man stealing something and would have acted the same way had the suspect been black, white or green. Years ago in Manhattan a black musician friend complained to me about the police frequently ordering him to pull his car over to question him. I reminded him that being an honest black man in America is always more difficult and it has nothing to do with racism. "Put yourself into that policeman's shoes," I said. "He drives around looking for a car thief and the description he has more often than not is of a black man. When 12% of the population pulls off half of America's crimes more often than not that cop is looking for a black man and you are black and you drive a nice car (this was the 1950s) so as a cop, a black cop, you'll be pulling over black drivers and does that make YOU a racist?" I've had black friends accuse America of being racist during Obama's second election. I remind them that it was the white vote that brought him in - the second time around many whites changed their assessment of the man. That doesn't make them racist. If anything, however, I get the sense that Obama has set back race relations by 50 years, because deep down he is a reverse racist.
o March 7, 2013 at 5:11 p.m.
o Recommended 4

o Chris
o Washington, D.C.
So, if I understand - you're writing that you are now avoiding this deli, which you previously enjoyed, "withholding business for something far beyond the merchant’s reach", basically judging him for the actions of another, and not just actions but behavior you also believe he sincerely regrets.

How is that not irrational prejudice?

I have no doubt racism exists, and is wrong. But it's quite irritating to have one prejudice used as rationalization for another.
o March 7, 2013 at 5:11 p.m.
o Recommended7

o sjs
o Bridgeport CT
Yes, it must have been racist because as we know, famous people don't shoplift. I'm sure that Lindsay Lohan, Winona Ryder, Claude Allen, Farrah Fawcet, Britney Spears were all innocent
o March 7, 2013 at 4:43 p.m.
o Recommended 8

o Franky Lamouche
o North Dana, MA
What nonsense. Move to a small town in New England. If you weren't born there, your treated like a second class citizen no matter who you are.
o March 7, 2013 at 4:43 p.m.
o Recommended 4

o Two Cents
o Brooklyn
I wonder whether Mr. Whitaker resembles someone the deli had had trouble with before. Yes, racism still exists. 'Isms' of all kinds won't be eradicated, unfortunately. But this piece reads as a sweeping judgment of a similar kind. Go back to the deli. Show some faith. Accept the apology.
o March 7, 2013 at 4:43 p.m.
o Recommended4

o Jay
o Brooklyn, NY
Maybe I'm being naive, but is it possible that the deli worker didn't recognize Mr. Whittaker as a famous actor and genuinely thought he shoplifted? You said yourself that you and your family patronize the deli and that there's never been an incident.
o March 7, 2013 at 4:43 p.m.
o Recommended6

o ChloeZZZ
o Manhattan
Your wife is right. The deli owner is playing the disassembling apologist card. Not until that owner either has the employee apologize or fires the employee should you darken that deli's door.
o March 7, 2013 at 4:43 p.m.
o Recommended 5

o David E. Harrison
o Bar Harbor, ME
If you do not think there has been progress - what color is the US president who was just re-elected by 5 million votes?
I have been profiled by black/white (oreo) cops when walking in a rich white (? I assume) neighborhood in LA . I'm white, but was not known to them - did you know you are not allowed to walk on the side walk in rich neighborhoods unless you live there? And I thought sidewalks were public.
The rich vs the rest of us is the battle for this century. Racial tensions play into the hands of the rich by keeping normal people fighting each other.
o March 7, 2013 at 4:43 p.m.
o Recommended 2

o Philip Sedlak
o Monrovia, Liberia
Where are we on all of this? This racism? This black/white? When I lived at 101st and Amsterdam in 1970, my wife and I had continuous debates if it were justified to cross 101st Street to the other side on the way to Broadway to buy ice cream at 9 p. m. at night when 1) two white males, 2) two black males were approaching on the same side of 101st. The believed statistics at the time (true or false, but the only statistics we had to go on) were that it was 2.1 (add your number here) times more likely to be confronted by two black males and that therefore changing sides of the street was justified and not racist. I don’t think this was ever resolved except that after this debate, I routinely carried a lead pipe with me on 101st Street and didn’t bother to change sides no matter who was coming (let’s leave the “how much more likely one is to harm a domestic partner with a weapon than to defend oneself” argument aside for the moment).

About how well-meaning the owners of the deli were I can’t say, but had it been in 1970, they certainly would have gone home and told their wives, “I had a little problem with a Schwarze today.”

Sincerely, Well meaning white guy.

Maybe when the Republicans throw their support rather than their barely concealed enmity against a black president will racism be over.
o March 7, 2013 at 4:43 p.m.
o Recommended2

o SqueakyRat
o Providence RI
If Mr. Blow believes, as he says he does, that this was "a sincere mistake" by "a decent man" just "doing his job," then why is he so sure this incident was racially motivated?
o March 7, 2013 at 4:32 p.m.

o chris
o queens
So, should we congratulate you on joining your wife's 'war'?
o March 7, 2013 at 4:31 p.m.
o Recommended 1

o William Maskiell
o San Francisco
During the summer of 2010, I was loudly accused of shoplifting a wheel of brie from Milano market. I'm an African American Harvard alum, who was in New York doing research for my Cornell doctoral dissertation. I've never ever been involved with anything illegal and I am a petite woman, about the most non-threatening person you'd ever meet. This is a PATTERN with this establishment and its one that is absolutely unacceptable!
o March 7, 2013 at 4:29 p.m.
o Recommended 8

o Dan
o New York
So none of you all commenting, nor the columnist himself were present at the event in question. Yet everyone seems certain this happened because of racism. Tell me, can anything bad or inconvenient happen to a black person for reasons other than racism?
o March 7, 2013 at 4:29 p.m.
o Recommended 7

o Michael H.
o Alameda, California
What?! Someone being badly treated in a New York deli? Unheard of. No white guy has ever been accused of shoplifting in a NY deli. Just would not happen.

And no white guy has ever been arrested for disorderly conduct in his own house. Never, ever happens.

You never hear of racist comments being shouted at a white guy in a Black club. Just wouldn't occur.

And no Oscar winning white guy has been arrested in New York since, well, since Tuesday.
o March 7, 2013 at 4:29 p.m.
o Recommended 6

o Steve Sailer
o America
Have you noticed that the more Barack Obama wins, the more frenzied the forces of anti-racism become? Look at the mass hysteria at Oberlin College.
o March 7, 2013 at 4:29 p.m.

o Max
o San Diego
Why is this a big deal? Have you happened to notice the racial make up of the prisons or the much higher crime/murder rate of certain groups of people. Why are you more concerned about this rather than the epidemic of illegitimacy and murder in the inner city?
o March 7, 2013 at 4:29 p.m.
o Recommended 6

o Steve Sailer
o America
Thank God the administration of Oberlin College has taken a stand against racist assault blankets!

o brian
None of what you write is based on sound reasoning and skeptic inquiry. What do you know exactly about the shoplifting incident? What made the employee raise the accusation - you seem to want t believe nothing else but the racial explanation. Otherwise you would have to ask this first: how many shoplifting incidents were at that store, say, in the past year. And how many of those turned out to be false accusations. And how many of those were against black individuals? Then let's take a hard look. Otherwise you're just using an anecdote to make your point that you already want to believe in.
Same about false burglary - really? impossible to imagine a neighbor calling the police because they see two white guys smacking an entrance door with hammer? Well, I imagine that with utter ease - call me a racist...just because I disagree (that's the latest rave, by the way).

Your writing is not worth reading I regret to say...
o March 7, 2013 at 4:29 p.m.
o Recommended 4
o Chris Murphy
o Atlanta, GA
You're right: we white people don't get treated badly by anyone, ever.
o March 7, 2013 at 4:29 p.m.
o Recommended 3

o humphrj
o sarasota, fl
"...and it has been war ever since." What a sad, sad statement. And it is too disappointing that you appear to have joined the war footing.

Everyone -- black, white, asian, hispanic -- has had some incident in their life that can harden a heart toward others. For your wife, it was a "little white boy," saying something dumb and now she carries the war forward. For others, it can be a slight or a crime or a rude person. If you are looking for offense, you will surely find it. But if you are looking for hope and the possibility for a better future, you will find that, too.
o March 7, 2013 at 4:29 p.m.
o Recommended 7

o Patrick
I've frequented this deli for 12 years - 3-5 times a week. About a year ago, a staff person was loudly giving another sandwich maker a hard time "What's wrong with you, were you raped as a child?" he said, in full earshot of customers. I made a deal of it. The offending guy insisted he was the manager for the day, and apologized, but he was just apologizing for being called out about it. I talked to the owner the next day. But there's a culture of boorishness there. I'll visit the place one last time today - maybe the frisker was the same guy- and tell the manager why after 12 years, I'm done. If you employ a**holes, don't expect to get my business.
o March 7, 2013 at 2:35 p.m.
o Recommended 17

o Grant Wiggins
o Hopewell nj
I'm very dispirited by the chippy defensive stance by many posters here. It is NOT the writer's job to solve this problem. It is quite important to NAME the problem, especially when we now pat ourselves on the back in supposedly post-racial America. It is especially important - even courageous - to name 'good people' as a big part of the problem. Secondly, the failure to see this as racism is astonishing to me. When has a white man - not a kid - ever been frisked in a store by an employee?
o March 7, 2013 at 2:35 p.m.
o Recommended 20

o West Coast Steve
o Seattle Wa.
I have followed Mr. Coates writing for some time. He writes eloquently.
I know that there is much to what he says concerning racisim. Doing anything,anywhere while Black may lead to wrongful scrutiny.
I do not have the answer to the questions brought forth here.
My question is: Do Black people in this country have no responsibility for some of the problem ?
o March 7, 2013 at 2:34 p.m.

o J.S.
o massachusetts
I guess the writer thinks black people are just perfect with no racism or prejudice in them. Because as a white guy, I can tell you, that isn’t my experience.
I’d love to know neighborhood by neighborhood in N.Y.C. what white person or black person could go into what deli. I’ll bet white people can go in fewer black places and feel comfortable.
Also, who cares if the guy is a famous actor. The whole tone of that is so elitist.
Sounds to me like some millionaire picking on some poor deli worker who probably has to go get a $9 an hour job now with the millionaire going back to his mansion.
o March 7, 2013 at 2:28 p.m.
o Recommended 14

o Citizen
o undefined
Your assumption that the incident was motivated by racism is of course a form of racism - as is your wife's "war" on white people based upon an ancient incident. This is how racism works.
o March 7, 2013 at 2:02 p.m.
o Recommended 32

o ChiRon8
o Chicago, IL
Growing up, my family were one of the last white families living in a working class neighborhood. Before we finally moved out, I got beat up practically every day by a group a black kids- simply for being white. Where is my justice?
o March 7, 2013 at 2:01 p.m.
o Recommended 21

o Mike
o Blue Bell, PA
I may be missing something in the telling of this event. Why is it assumed that Forest Whitaker was frisked because he is black? Is it being assumed that the employee should have recognized him? Is it being assumed that the employee randomly selected him for this injustice based solely on his skin color?

Is it possible that the employee thought he saw something happen that didn't actually happen, and that he would have reacted the same way regardless of skin color?
o March 7, 2013 at 2:01 p.m.
o Recommended 14

o larunner90803
o California
I'm white and while driving my kids around, I'll hear them say to their friends, "You'll have to excuse my mom; she doesn't like white people." And some of that disdain is self directed. Once I stopped to give a ride to an older black lady who i assumed was walking to the bus stop. No, she didn't need a ride - she was walking to her office where she works as a physician. I hope my kids do better than I at seeing people for who they are and not their skin color. Sigh.
o March 7, 2013 at 2:01 p.m.
o Recommended 3

o Combat Vet
o Phoenix
Last year my son's team played a basketball game in West Phoenix. After the game the other team's cheer leaders -- Hispanic girls led by a black young woman -- followed our team to the bus shouting profanities. They continued after adults told them to stop. As the bus passed them leaving the parking lot, the girls threw rocks at the bus. Why do we always assume that white people are the only ones who need to work at making the our society more civil and tolerant. The girls who threw the rocks and profanities were suspended by their school after the fact and kicked off the cheer leading team.
o March 7, 2013 at 2:01 p.m.
o Recommended 22
o dhealey12
o Ft. Gratiot, MI
As a foreigner who moved here, it always amazes me how white America is subjected to a constant barrage of finger pointing and accusations of racism. And we all know it will be from cradle to grave. Yet rarely do we read about how black people will cross the street when a group of young blacks are coming down the sidewalk yet not cross the street when it is a group of young whites.

Rarely do we read blacks castigating other blacks for their violent behavior or lack of ambition. An Irish Catholic friend from Belfast had his home firebombed as a child yet he is not the least bit biased against the Protestants in Ulster. Instead he recognizes that his own people were just as culpable in prolonging the terrorism.
Black people would be much more credible if they presented a more balanced argument which included the sins of both races.
o March 7, 2013 at 2:01 p.m.
o Recommended24
o Tony Sharpe
o Columbus, OH
He says that it was a “sincere mistake” made by a “decent man” who was “just doing his job.”

That's the same excuse they always give. From the Nazis at Auschwitz to US Soldiers at My Lai to George Zimmerman in Florida, "just doing his job" has been the justification for a lot of very bad things.

Decent men and women don't do those jobs.
o March 7, 2013 at 1:46 p.m.
o Recommended 7
o pceth
o MA
Oh my god, wait. Am I being dense and missing something? A famous black man gets falsely accused of shoplifting, and this is the great "my eyes are now awake to the sins of NYC" moment???

"In modern America we believe racism to be the property of the uniquely villainous and morally deformed, the ideology of trolls, gorgons and orcs." This is comical and I suspect the author never even believed it.

He really needs to get out more. And steer clear of *any* community that calls themselves "good people," especially privileged ones. They really screw with one's world view.

Of course, I'm not denying there is ongoing racism in America. But noting this instance as a breaking point for one's relationship with "good people" seems somewhat shallow and 'first world-ish' of the author.

But I do have a question. Are there a lot of black customers in that deli? More than 1%, more than 10%? How many potential shoplifters has this employee accosted? Were an inordinate number black? Were white ones treated differently? Was Forest acting strangely, putting a lot of things [back] in his pockets? He was just robbed, after all.
Does being famous or black preclude one from possibly being a shoplifter? Would you prefer the PC world where we give black men a special deference simply because they are black? Has the author held a job where spotting possible shoplifters is part of one's day?
o March 7, 2013 at 1:07 p.m.
o Recommended27
o Jimbo
o Middlebush, NJ
I am a white guy who has spent big chunks of his life working, living, and interacting with black people. I have tried from childhood to treat my friends, family and acquaintances - anyone that I come in contact with - with respect and understanding, based on my mother's guiding hand and wisdom that each of us, not just black or white, but EVERYONE, is a precious entity and part of the fellowship of mankind. I have been called the n word, to my face, for my support of these ideals.

I am not wealthy. I am not a power broker. I have little to no influence on the society as a whole. At what point will the immutable fact that I was born white no longer make me responsible for the ills of society.

I read this article. And right then I knew that I was tired of being labeled racist, that I had had all the racism I could take.
o March 7, 2013 at 1:07 p.m.
o Recommended19

o sally
o denver
Forgive me, but I didn't see this incident in the news, so I must've missed what made this particularly incident about race. Could someone explain that to me? Did the owner say he thought he stole something because Whitaker is black, or because he did something that looked suspicious, or because there is a history of theft at a deli near a college campus. I'm just not entirely sure what this article is doing with the Whitaker incident, because if the Deli owner is a 'good person', aren't people being racist and ignoring that he is a 'good person' by not deciding to shop at his store?

Isn't the author's wife racism, essentially presented as a "war" against white people, the exact same as the deli employer's racism if a black person had stolen from his store in the past.

I just don't understand what this article is doing, other than perpetuating race wars. It on does two good things, one remind us all of the image of the Harvard professor climbing into his own house. That is a very powerful image in regards to this discussion; it's never left me. And two, to acknowledge the racism of black people. This is never aknowledged. That it is seemingly innocent for a black person to describe their relationship to white people as a "war" is not something a white person would be allowed to do, they'd have absolutely no professional future.
o March 7, 2013 at 1:07 p.m.
o Recommended 26
o John Wilson
o Richmond, VA
In the example Coates uses, the employee could have been of any race and done the same thing to someone he inherently didn't "trust." So I think Coates could be more specific about how a "good person" could be led astray by the biases they themselves may not even recognize that they have. But since Coates isn't, it weakens the piece tremendously.
o March 7, 2013 at 12:10 p.m.
o Recommended19
o <>
o Quazizi
o Chicago
The advancement of civil rights for blacks in my lifetime (approaching sixty years) is a staggering achievement for humanity, so rapid against a background of centuries of racism. Of course, to anyone of any minority, the battle is not completely over, nor can it ever be over soon enough. I cannot know to what standard of change people compare this fabulous progress, but I suspect it is ultimately simple impatience.

No one here speaks of the fundamental assessment of threat that all people have operating constantly at some level in their mind, a quality well-developed quite a ways down on the evolutionary ladder and still persistent and vital to survival of homo sapiens. Our soldiers often need additional training to better recognize threat. And harm is still a very viable outcome throughout much civilian American life, whether it is deadly or injurious in some other way (e.g., theft).

Crime statistics are not some highly suspect figment of propaganda. There needs to be new terminology introduced to describe rational behavior driven by threat assessment. If I feel I need to keep an eye on someone that might do me harm, and that assessment is based on experience as well as other information (e.g. daily news), I will not consider myself a racist and am insulted by insinuations to the contrary. I have some hope that race relations will further improve, but branding these essential human traits as racist is a step backwards and shortchanges the accuser and the accused.
o March 7, 2013 at 12:10 p.m.
o Recommended 5

o Tom
o Nashville
If Winona Ryder can shoplift, why not Forest Whitaker? The author doesn't tell us why Forest got frisked. Was he adjusting his clothing in some suspicious way? Or does the owner of the deli routinely frisk all Blacks who come in his store? Given that Columbia University abuts Harlem, I don't think the man would be in business long if he were a racist. It's actually joyful that writers have to resort to such ambiguous situations to express their racial indignation nowadays. Real racism seems to be rare. This story reminds me of the Skip Gates case, in which we learned that being Black and famous means you're supposed to have diplomatic immunity from any type of policing.
o March 7, 2013 at 9:51 a.m.
o Recommended 12

o kelli
o bklyn
NYT Pick
This is so disheartening. Thank you for coming forward and writing about it; it is important that these stories are made public. I'm convinced that the non-black population has no idea of what African Americans still have to endure.

But I don't agree with your assessment that "little has changed". I think if we young adults could momentarily transport back to, say, 1960 we would be astonished at the state of discrimination in the US. That is not to say that we don't have a very long way to go. But I think the point must be made that today, much racist behavior takes place in a subtler form. Saying "little has changed" is an overstatement, and I'm afraid you'll lose the attention of so many people who believe we've conquered racism. I have actually heard white colleagues of mine state their belief that "racism is over" in New York. There are laws in place protecting people against almost any kind of discrimination, and as a society we scorn racist acts and racist language. Everyone in our office is friendly! So where's the racism, they ask?

Everywhere. Presumptions, glances, suspicion, attitude, words - that often go unreported because in the overall scheme of things they are, one-at-a-time, more benign than being physically harmed, arrested, etc. But they're happening. All the time.
o March 7, 2013 at 9:17 a.m.
o Recommended 217
o < jQuery1710049244491905987064="89">

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